By Joe Sugarman
Are we overrun with musical prodigies? Everywhere you look these days — from the pint-sized pianists on “America’s Got Talent” to violin virtuosos on YouTube to guitar phenoms on “Ellen” (Ellen is a sucker for a cute kid with an instrument, isn’t she?), it seems we’ve been living in a culture of overachieving children. But, we wonder, who among the YouTube sensations of today will go onto become the Yo-Yo Mas of tomorrow? Who will be successful young adults like Hilary Hahn or fizzle out like Gayle Webster? Gayle who? Exactly.
Here are six young musicians who we think could still be performing long after they earn their driver’s licenses.
Gee whiz factor: Began studying piano at the Music Institute of Chicago as a toddler. Started composing at age three and penned more than 350 compositions by age eight. Performed at the White House for George W. Bush at age six and made Carnegie Hall debut at nine.
Why she’ll succeed: Her mentor is Quincy Jones, who produced her first album — a collection of original jazz compositions — last year. The record peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Jazz album charts. Enough said.
Gee whiz factor: This talented cellist learned to read music by age four and by 11 years old was already the subject of a documentary, Little Music Manchild.
Why he’ll succeed: The kid’s got a great back story: grew up in working class Birmingham, Ala., and was homeschooled by his grandmother. Everyone gushes about his charisma, work ethic and talent, including his mentor Udi Bar-David, cellist for the Philadelphia Orchestra. “He’s an extremely talented cellist," says Bar-David, “very creative, mature, has stage presence, is open to learning and has strong ideas of his own.”
Gee whiz: Liu didn’t start taking piano lessons until the ripe old age of four, but has won just about every significant piano competition she’s entered since age six. By age seven, she had played Carnegie Hall — three times.
Why she’ll succeed: Apparently, she’s a born winner.
Gee whiz factor: Often cited as the Dutch Jackie Evancho — who could also be on this list — Willighagen, at age nine, wowed audiences on “Holland’s Got Talent” with her performance of Puccini's O mio babbino caro from the opera Gianni Schicchi. Says she learned how to sing by watching opera videos on YouTube. As she told the show’s judges: “My brother Vincent plays violin, and I also wanted to do something. So I thought, ‘I'm going to sing’… and then I heard opera songs, which I found very beautiful and that's when I started singing.”
Why she’ll succeed: Her debut album, set to come out this month, is from the record label owned by Simon Cowell, who is supposedly a huge fan.
Gee whiz factor: Started composing at five and performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” at seven. At age nine, he became the youngest artist to have his own national PBS concert special, and at age 10 became the youngest musician to headline his own national tour and the youngest to headline a Las Vegas show. Oh, and he also recently scored — and starred — in a feature film, Anything Is Possible.
Why he’ll succeed: Huh? He’s already a success!
Gee whiz factor: A video of then five-year-old Tsung playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” with miraculous speed went viral in 2012.
He dispelled critics who thought the video had been doctored on “Ellen,” when he performed the same piece live.
Why he’ll succeed: We’ll give him a 50-50 chance. He’s got blazingly fast hands, but he won’t be as adorable in 20 years.